Friday proved to be quite a day for Andy Murray for, after retrieving his wedding ring which had gone AWOL overnight attached to his ‘smelly’ trainers, he headlined the evening schedule on Day 3 at the BNP Paribas Masters staged at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, with Emma Raducanu making her first appearance since her incredible US Open victory.
I didn’t give him too many opportunities on my serve and my concentration until maybe the last game, was really good. That’s something that’s been a bit of a problem the last couple of tournaments Andy Murray
Unfortunately it wasn’t to be a double victory for the Brits with just Murray, a former world number one, able to progress into the second round following a comfortable 6-3 6-2 victory over Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, the world No.50.
For Murray, a former finalist at the event (2009), the victory, completed in just 83-minutes, will provide him with a major confidence boost as he continues to battle his way back up the rankings having slipped to 121 following the various hip surgeries he underwent beginning in January 2018.
“It is four years since I have been here,” Murray said. “It is one of the best places to play tennis on tour. I have obviously missed playing in these types of competitions. It has been a tough route to come back. It was nice to see so many people come out to support me. I really enjoyed it.
“Unfortunately I’ve not felt that I’ve managed to play my best tennis here, I’ve always found the conditions quite tricky and it was the same again tonight. It’s very breezy on court so it’s not easy to play and I was against a tricky opponent as well.
“I competed well. I don’t think I tried to overplay. I played to how the conditions allowed. I tried to use a bit of variety, used my slice quite a lot and different heights. I didn’t give him too many opportunities on my serve and my concentration until maybe the last game, was really good. That’s something that’s been a bit of a problem the last couple of tournaments.”
To achieve his goal of competing at the top level, Murray has to regularly win these matches but has shown he has the stamina and game to do so after giving Stefanos Tsitsipas more that a run for his money in a classic five-setter first-round loss at the US Open.
A few breaks and consistency are required and a win over his second round opponent, the Spanish teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz, could well set the 25-year-old Scot off on a sustained run of matches and avoid being reliant on wildcards.
On this occasion Murray made a confident start to break his opponent in the sixth game, deploying while on the run, one of his trademark backhand defensive lobs to set up the opportunity and then went on to serve out the opener in 40-minutes.
Mannarino swatted away two break points in the third game of the second set but began to look increasingly frustrated as Murray maintained the pressure breaking to lead 3-2 with a blistering return. A double fault handed Murray his second break.
The Frenchman’s error tally continued to mount as Murray consolidated and, despite some jitters while attempting to serve out including staving off a break-point – the only one he faced in the match – sealed a well-earned victory on his second match point with a deft drop-shot.
“I thought my focus was good tonight,” he added. “I focussed on every single point and fought till the end.”
No victory for another wildcard, Jack Sock who was beaten after two-hours and 31-minutes by John Millman 7-5 4-6 6-3 in a match which ended acrimoniously.
The match itself provided a good platform for the Australian to show his fighting qualities bouncing back from a break down in the deciding set to progress to the second round where he takes on the 10th seeded Italian Jannik Sinner.
But something happened during the match which upset the usually placid Millman resulting in an exchange of heated words which ended with the Aussie walking away exclaiming: “But yeah, it’s my fault!”
The actual problem, however, is unknown.
Also through to the second round is compatriot Aleksandar Vukic, a qualifier, who defeated Spaniard Pablo Andujar 7-5 6-4 and will face fellow Aussie Alex de Minaur, seeded 22, next.
South African Kevin Anderson maintained his record of not losing a set against another Aussie, Jordan Thompson, defeating him in 84-minutes 7-5 6-4 in their third encounter.
In what is his 10th appearance in the California desert, Anderson struck 10 aces and dropped only three points on his first serve to set a second-round meeting with 17th seed Lorenzo Sonego of Itlay.
Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori finished emphatically to deny German Dominik Koepfer in their first-round clash. The 22-year-old saved nine of 11 break points for a 6-7(3) 6-2 6-0 victory to set up a meeting with 24th seed and Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Karen Khachanov of Russia.
Elsewhere on the men’s side, Americans Jenson Brooksby and Ernesto Escobedo won their first-round matches. Brooksby beat Turkish qualifier Cem Ilkel 7-6(5) 6-4 and Escobedo defeated wildcard Holger Rune of Denmark 6-4 6-1.